Double Dutch appeals to Burns

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The Independent Online
Scottish round-up

Celtic's chances of winning the League title for the first time since 1988, thereby ending Rangers' seven-year monopoly on the championship, could hinge on events over the next 44 hours.

Tommy Burns, the Celtic manager, who has brought his men to within a point of Rangers in the Scottish League Premier Division, is hoping to persuade Dennis de Nooijer, the Dutch striker, to join forces with his compatriot, Pierre van Hooijdonk, at Celtic Park.

De Nooijer, of Sparta Rotterdam, heads the Dutch scoring charts and scored a goal yesterday as Sparta drew 3-3 with Ajax. His capture would be important for Burns, who was left frustrated at Rugby Park on Saturday as Celtic failed to score against Kilmarnock, thus losing the chance to leap-frog Rangers, who surprisingly lost 3-0 to Hearts at Ibrox.

Celtic have relied heavily this season on the striking prowess of Van Hooijdonk, who has 17 goals to date, but were without Andreas Thom, their German striker, on Saturday, fuelling concern among their supporters that injury can deprive their team of valuable talent for which there appears to be little cover.

Burns would be required to pay pounds 1.2m for De Nooijer, a price the supporters would consider worth paying for a title win.

Burns will shortly have another addition to his squad with Brian O'Neil, the defender who has been out of action all season after damaging knee ligaments before the Scottish Cup final in May, is almost ready for a comeback. O'Neil will play two reserve games this week and could return to the first team for next Sunday's Scottish Cup tie against Whitehill Welfare.

However, while Celtic look to boost their personnel, Rangers gave a debut to Peter van Vossen, their recent Dutch signing in the match against Hearts, which Walter Smith will hope provided a one-off result in the midst of a tense championship battle. Van Vossen will have time to prove his worth with Rangers over the coming weeks.

Hearts' goals were all scored by Allan Johnston while there were only another two goals scored in the entire Premier Division. One of them was a disputed penalty at Aberdeen which was dispatched by Billy Dodds to give the home side victory over Partick Thistle.

David Sinclair, of Raith Rovers, was the other goalscorer to help his side to an important win over the second from bottom club, Falkirk.